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May 13, 2022

A teacher and three of his female pupils planting seedlings in a raised bed in the school garden. All three girls are using small gardening equipment to help plant.The sun is out, fruits and vegetables are in season, you have the luxury of time, and happy moods abound! How will your summer program be intentional in addressing students’ health and wellness? What pieces of a healthy summer can be carried into the next school year? Start with your school partnership and intentional program design to be confident you’re putting health first.

Be Ambitious

When it comes to student health, your program can afford to be ambitious this summer because you’re not in it alone! Your community is invested in your students’ well-being too, so bring them along. With those high ambitions in mind, assess the greatest health needs among your students.

Make Your Intentional Plan

Box checking can be exhausting, and each year it feels like there are more boxes to check. When it comes to health and wellness, take advantage of out-of-school time’s flexibility to lean into feel-good activities that boost spirits and by extension, student well-being.

You Are What You Eat

Nutrition can play a big role in your summer program. Last summer in a Y4Y Voices From the Field podcast, Simone Miranda of the Schenectady City School District shared how her program’s partnership with a local farm led to fresh fruits and vegetables — and career exploration opportunities — for her students. Renee Starr and Megan Grubb from Brooklyn Center Community Schools took this idea one step further by braiding 21st CCLC funds with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every region has some form of agriculture that students can take important life and career skills from. And with a strategic partnership in place, maybe they can even take home some fresh food!

  • What are your community assets? Dig deep into what organizations you can partner with by using Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Partners, Mapping Community Assets, and Community Asset Mapping tools.
  • As you reach out to new partners in your community, it’s helpful to create an elevator speech about your program. Adapt your speech for existing partners to emphasize the health and wellness needs of your students, especially those that have crept in as a result of the pandemic.
  • With partners in place, consider all the ways good nutrition can be part of your summer. Cooking with students is a great opportunity to practice reading, math, and general problem solving as well as conversations and lessons around what constitutes healthy foods and portion sizes.

Our Friends the Neurotransmitters

Chief among the natural ways of boosting neurotransmitters associated with mental and emotional wellness are exercise, mindfulness, gratitude, novelty, goal setting, and time in the sun. Your summer program is the perfect setting for all of these, and Y4Y has tips, tools, and resources to guide you:



April 19, 2022

A multi-ethnic group of elementary school children are outdoors on a sunny day. They are wearing casual clothing. They are learning about nature in science class. A girl is using a magnifying glass to look for bugs.Have students noticed new weeds growing in the schoolyard? Does a bridge across the street have support beams at an unusual angle? Is there an odd discoloration of a highway retaining wall where water seeps through? There are lessons in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) all around us! Solving mysteries in their own backyards helps students discover how relevant science is to their own lives. It’s not just for college professors and lab techs in white coats — though you may put students on the path to becoming one through meaningful experiences!

The Future of Science Starts With History

Students might not realize how much science is about history — natural history. What are the past and present geological and biological features of your region? If there are radical differences among the natural environments around your state (like deserts, grasslands, mountains, lakes, and beaches), what’s the significance of those differences?  What’s their effect on your state’s social, political, and economic development? Learning about the natural history of your region can be exciting for students, and it can lead to rich exploration. You might have a museum of natural history in your area where students can see replicas of the ice caps that once covered your part of the country not so very long ago, or of wooly mammoths or even dinosaurs that once stood in the very place where they are standing. Also consider partnering with your local park services, private-practice environmental scientists, university extension offices, geological societies, and publicly and privately maintained hiking trails, waterways, campgrounds, and other outdoor venues. Each of these likely has professionals who are eager to share their knowledge of local natural history. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s course on strategic partnerships and related tools if forming new partnerships is uncharted territory for your program. A few of the most relevant tools are called out in a companion blog post this month: Place-Based Learning in Career Pathways.

Remember to communicate with school-day educators so your efforts are supporting their science curriculum. Here are just a few examples of natural history learning that can be supported with place-based exploration in your area:

  • Plant reproduction: Take a walk right outside your program door. Are weeds growing in unusual places, such as gutters or cracks in the sidewalk? If nowhere near a parent plant, how might the seeds have traveled to those locations? Are the plants native or invasive? Who decides if something’s a plant vs. a weed? What might students guess about how much water is available in the area, now and in the past? Considering the biological future of your region, how important is it for these species of plants that the same level of water be consistently available? Is anything threatening that?
  • Geology: Is there any new construction happening in your area? With appropriate permissions and safety precautions, can you visit a construction site where the earth has been dug away? What do the students notice about changes in color as the hole deepens, and what does that mean about the history of that place? Do you have hills or mountains in the area that can be seen on a short walk? Ask students to imagine what the ground beneath their feet might have looked like millions of years ago before the tectonic plates collided. Once they’ve gained that personal observation of the results of tectonic plate movement, what do they imagine the place will look like in another million years?
  • Climate change: Yes, climate change is as old as the earth itself. But is it possible that humans are speeding it up? What do your students notice about the air quality today? How about yesterday? Try taking a photo of the same spot on the horizon each day at the same time, and ask students to judge if it looks the same from day to day, week to week. They can also use the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection’s AirNow.gov website to check the daily Air Quality Index for their zip code.

Putting the TEM in STEM

Science is just one quarter of STEM learning. Rural programs might have an edge over urban programs in terms of access to nature, but urban programs may be surrounded by wonders of human engineering! Potential partners for direct learning and activity ideas include engineering firms, your local government planning department, technology companies, technical schools, and a host of professional organizations. Here are just a few examples of place-based exploration and activity ideas you can consider in either rural or urban programs:

  • Follow the rainwater: Ask students if they’ve ever watched rainwater collect along the road and flow in what direction? Downhill, of course. (Hello gravity!) How far apart are grates placed? Do students think they might be more or less spaced out in the desert? In Seattle? Have they ever noticed that all roads are concave? All of that was engineered intentionally! What would happen if it hadn’t been?
  • Parking problems: Try measuring an unused section of your program parking lot and counting the parking spots. Are lines at right angles or at diagonals? Do students believe the designer could have gotten more or fewer spaces by laying it out the opposite way? Can you find a formula online for improving your parking lot? So much math! Check out Y4Y’s resources for project-based learning as you set out on this activity!
  • Green means go: Stand at your nearest traffic light and have a pair of students time and record the lights in opposing directions. Have other students count how many cars go through each light, and how many “get stuck.” Ask them to look closely at the lights to see if they can tell whether they might have sensors to help traffic flow in a logical way. Invite your city technology planners to explain the system and allow students to discuss their guesswork and offer their ideas on how to improve the system!

As you plan for place-based STEM learning in your program through these and even more ambitious ideas, be sure to access Y4Y’s STEAM course and course resources. The design thinking framework will have greater impact on students when they identify STEM-related problems and propose solutions for them in the very place where they live and learn.

As Paul Gruchow writes in Discovering the Universe of Home, “The great spectacles of nature, of fire and wind, of rain and ice, of heat and cold, of metamorphosis, of birth and death, of struggle and decay, of quiet and beauty visit alike the prairies of southwestern Minnesota and the boroughs of New York City…. What happens when you apply the imaginations of history to the events of any place, however small, is that its connections with all the rest of the universe then come into view.”



April 11, 2022

Career pathways exploration may involve those fantasy jobs like astronaut or deepwater diver that aren’t found on every corner of every town. But Y4Y’s course on career pathways can direct you toward activities you can plan to expand students’ awareness of education and career opportunities close to home. Some students in 21st CCLC programs may not see themselves ever straying far from the community they grew up in, while others may think leaving is their only option. Either way, early connections to career paths and possibilities right in their own backyard will give students more investment in the community today and better ensure their future success and contribution to the world around them, no matter where they end up.

Partnerships

When taking a place-based approach to exploring career pathways with students, you might start by asking yourself a question: How do local commerce and industry ­— whether historically based on plentiful natural resources or recently developed based on community needs like technology or healthcare ­— impact the community’s success and culture?

  1. Who can help you answer this question? Consider new partnerships with state and local commerce offices, employment and workforce guidance departments; labor unions; media outlets; military recruiters; and organizations like the Rotary Club. Tools like Y4Y’s Identifying Partners, Community Asset Mapping, and Mapping Needs to Partners can help you figure out the best place to start. Other tools in the Y4Y Strategic Partnerships course will be useful in reaching out, like Creating a Program Elevator Speech and Planning for Developing Program Champions.
  2. What will student research look like? You have many options to help students better understand the relationship between commerce/industry and community success and culture. Representatives from your new partnerships can come speak to students. They can recommend internet sites to explore. Or they can answer your staff members’ questions so they can share the information with students through engaging activities.
  3. Remember school partners. What school curriculum involves research on local or state commerce/industry? Where can your program support that learning, and where can you fill gaps?

An Age-Appropriate Approach

Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect environment to introduce early career exploration! Y4Y’s new course on this topic offers a useful framework and many tools for designing age-appropriate activities. And centering those activities on your community will make them all the more relevant and meaningful to young minds.

  • Share Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Preparing Children and Youth for Success. This tool guides families through the kinds of everyday practices and day trips in their neighborhoods that can help ensure that their students start connecting early with the idea of a future profession in the place where they live. Examples include visiting nearby nature centers and attending cultural events — anything that’s offered in the neighborhood will do. Even young students can be brought to college and job fairs in the community; encourage families to ask lots of questions of the booth attendants. If you’ve ever staffed a booth, you know how nice it is to have people genuinely interested in what you’re there to talk about, no matter their age!
  • Work with community partners when reviewing results of the Y4Y Elementary Student Interest Inventory. For example, the Rotary Club president might have ideas on how students who love measuring and paper airplane designs could connect with a local architect for a “day at the office,” or how one who loves animals and gardening might spend time touring a nearby farm.
  • Y4Y’s Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook offers many more ideas. Through the lens of place-based learning, make the most of suggestions like the guidebook’s Strategy 6: Use Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities. At all academic levels, find special adults in the community to cement those magical two-way relationships. This way, the community is making a personal, direct investment in its future through your students, and the students begin to see themselves as an integral part of the community.

Author Paul Gruchow, in his work Discovering the Universe of Home notes, “Nothing in my education prepared me to believe, or encouraged me to expect, that there was any reason to be interested in my own place. If I hoped to amount to anything, I understood, I had better take the first road east out of town as fast as I could. And, like so many of my classmates, I did.” Yes, you want your students to believe — to know — they can become astronauts or deepwater divers if it is their greatest dream. But you can and should begin at home with the wealth of career possibilities hiding in plain sight in your students’ very own place.



March 10, 2022

Do your students give up too easily on projects demanding online research because there’s just “too much out there” to know where to begin? Simple tips and tricks from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy can help them recognize that, with some basic principles and skills, the information avalanche contains a wealth of real treasure — once you learn how to find it.

We all remember with dread the assignment of a big research paper.

  • How will I choose a topic?
  • What information will my teacher want me to include?
  • How will I organize my information?
  • How will I get this giant paper written?!

Education has come a long way in guiding students through each of these steps, and your program can be a great resource to them during homework and tutoring time. To help with organization, check out Y4Y’s Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates, and Research-Based Techniques and Practices for ideas. More writing guidance is available through Y4Y’s literacy course, including tools for Pre-Writing Activities, Revision Conference Planner, Writer’s Workshop, and Peer Editing Checklist. Tools like Guiding Content Creation and Presenting to Different Audiences can also help students with age-old questions like “What information will my teacher want me to include?”

But let’s take a step back and talk research! Students today face a whole new set of questions. They’re unlikely to step into a brick-and-mortar library and head over to a card catalog where nothing but reliable sources are conveniently organized by subject. Instead, they’re probably doing all of their research online. So, the questions they might be asking themselves are

  • How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?
  • Which sources are reliable?
  • Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?
  • Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

Y4Y is here to help navigate many of these dilemmas of the information age too!

How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?

To begin, there are some simple tips for yielding smart lists of hits.

  • Orient students to internet research with Y4Y’s relevant terms around digital literacy.
  • Use more than one search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
  • Use several terms to narrow the search. For example, if a student is writing a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, encourage them to not simply search on Dr. King’s name, but also on “Million Man March,” “civil rights,” “famous orators,” and “I have a dream.”
  • If they need to further narrow their search, add .org, .edu, and .gov to the list of terms.
  • Check out Y4Y’s Searching Safely podcast for tips on how to search thoroughly and safely. Have students take the Y4Y Youth Digital Literacy Self-Assessment to be sure of that safety.

Which sources are reliable?

After you’ve introduced students to the basics of finding information, consider these tips:

Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?

Help your students understand that the best argued points are those that recognize the strengths of an opposing view and counter that view. 

Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

This might be a rhetorical question, but educators today have access to many resources to discover if a student has plagiarized someone else’s work. It’s OK to copy and paste if a student is properly citing a reference, so be sure to align with the school day on citation practices. It’s also possible that the project your student is engaged in isn’t meant to be a formally researched report, and there’s room for creative license. Help them have some fun with those projects! Just ask Andy Warhol: Some of the best art is born of imitation.



March 8, 2022

This year, your Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Program will be reporting on new Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures that were published on July 1, 2021. If you’re a program leader, it’s important to consult with your state coordinator to ensure you understand the new measures and how your state wants data presented. Also, you might want to catch the upcoming LIVE With Y4Y webinar: Knowledge Is Power: Leveraging Data to Improve Program Quality. Webinar guests will offer research- and experience-based tips on your data’s importance, collection, and use. Meanwhile, review the comprehensive Y4Y resources discussed below to ensure that your program’s collection, reporting, and use of this year’s data ultimately wins the top prize: grant renewal!

Understand What You Need: Data for Design

Y4Y’s update of the Introduction to 21st CCLC course could not have come at a better time! If you’re looking for information about the new GPRA measures and the legislative background, check out the course’s Learn More Library. At this point in your program year, you should be implementing activities based on needs assessments you performed at the beginning of the year — congratulations on that successful initial collection of data for design! But if a review of the measures reveals that a data point was overlooked, you can reach out to partners immediately. If you're not sure you got this step right, then do the following:

Work With Your Prized Partners

Our culture seems to be waking up to the fact that everything comes back to relationships. If your program needs a little advice in strengthening those school-day partnerships to ensure efficient data sharing, check out these Y4Y resources:

Talk About Data Types

It isn’t just leadership that needs to understand types of data. Your frontline staff will be critical in answering some data questions before and after activities, and when it’s time to report at the end of your program year. Make the most of these Y4Y resources to ensure staff understand data types and why each type is so important:

Train on Collection

Different types of data mean different types of data collection. Y4Y offers resources to address this important step in the full data picture:

Analyze and Organize Your Data

Again, you’ll want to check with your state coordinator to understand exactly how your data are analyzed and presented at the end of your program year. Your state may have a database you are directly uploading information into, so be sure to clarify those procedures and deadlines. Y4Y offers tips on this step, including how to responsibly handle your data:

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Your goal this spring is to keep your eyes on the prize of grant renewal by demonstrating how effective you’ve been at serving the students in your program. Keep in mind that this year’s end data might be used as next year’s beginning data: in some cases, for students who are continuing with you, and in other cases to inform activity and program design decisions as part of your continuous improvement cycle. Your state coordinator is your partner in this, so remember: Nobody wants you to win more than they do!